Cervical ribs are more prevalent in stillborn fetuses than in live-born infants and are strongly associated with fetal aneuploidy

Larissa V. Furtado, Harshwardhan M. Thaker, Lance K. Erickson, Brian H. Shirts, John M. Opitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


This study was undertaken to determine the prevalence of cervical ribs in stillborn fetuses undergoing autopsy at our institution and to search for significant associations with cervical ribs. European studies have reported an increased prevalence of cervical ribs in patients with childhood cancer and in stillborn fetuses. We reviewed data from autopsies performed at Primary Children's Medical Center, Utah, between 2006 and 2009 on 225 stillborns (≥20 weeks) and 93 deceased live-born infants (<1 year). Digital fetal radiographs in anterior-posterior and lateral views had been taken of each subject. Chi-square analysis and general linear models were used for statistical analysis of the data. The overall prevalence of cervical ribs was higher in stillborns than in live-borns who died in the first year (43.1% vs 11.8%). Karyotypes were available for 93 (41.3%) of the stillborns. Of those, cervical ribs were present in 33 of 76 (43.4%) stillborns with normal karyotype and in 13 of 17 (76.4%) stillborns with aneuploidy. Females with unavailable karyotypes were more likely to have cervical ribs than those with normal karyotypes (P = 0.0002). This greater likelihood was not observed in males. Among the stillborns with normal karyotypes, we found no statistically significant association with gender or gestational age at fetal death. There was also no statistically significant association between congenital anomalies and the presence of cervical ribs. Our findings support the hypothesis that cervical ribs are markers for disadvantageous developmental events occurring during blastogenesis and have been subject to strong negative selection during evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)431-437
Number of pages7
JournalPediatric and Developmental Pathology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Aneuploidy
  • Autopsy
  • Cervical ribs
  • Developmental constraint
  • Homeotic transformation
  • Stillbirth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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